[Source: Michael Clancy and Casey Newton, Arizona Republic] — For the first time in modern history, Phoenix’s population could be shrinking. It’s an idea that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago, when Phoenix was surging up the list of the nation’s most populous cities. Now, a variety of indicators suggest that fewer people are living here than a year ago.
No one knows for sure exactly how many people have moved in or out. But with the 2010 census about to get under way, some indicators suggest Phoenix’s population may be smaller than the projected 1,636,170 people. City records show declining trends in several key areas. Among them:
- Foreclosure numbers have skyrocketed, meaning fewer city homes are occupied.
- Water hookups are down, suggesting the same.
- Some aspects of trash collection have ebbed because fewer people are buying things that produce waste.
- Crime has declined across the city while police are getting fewer calls for services, a possible indicator of fewer people.
- Sales-tax revenues are likely to drop for the second year in a row, with this year’s collections off almost 8% from last year.
[Note: To read the full article, click here.]
[Source: Michael Clancy, Arizona Republic] — Work to dismantle downtown Phoenix’s laser begins today, with hardly a soul to lament its demise. When the steel spider of a structure was built in 1986, it was billed as Phoenix’s answer to the Eiffel Tower. It operated for less than a year before its lasers were turned off for good. Now, the laser and Patriots Square, where it was situated, are being torn down to make room for CityScape, a huge, mixed-use project stretching from First Avenue to Second Street between Washington and Jefferson streets. Dismantling the structure will take three weeks. “I am not shedding any tears over it,” said Attorney General Terry Goddard, who was mayor at the time the laser was installed. “The concept was noble, but frankly, it never worked.”
The laser was the brainchild of architect Ted Alexander, and it captured the imagination of at least some people at the beginning, in the mid-’80s. Patriots Square was being rebuilt to include underground parking, and a contract for design of the park went to Alexander. In an early story in the Phoenix Gazette, Alexander said the laser would give the city “a town square that is unequaled anywhere in the country.” [Note: To read the full article, click here.]
[Source: Michael Clancy, Arizona Republic] — Phoenix had a record number of complaints about weeds, junked cars, and other violations of city law in the past fiscal year. Officials took in 57,989 complaints from residents about their neighbors, an increase of 6% from the previous year. The city allows anonymous callers to lodge complaints. The city responds with a letter to the subject of the complaint, then sends an inspector to visit. Sam McAllen of the city’s Neighborhood Services Department said 85% of the complaints are resolved before the inspector makes a second visit. The number of cases was a 49% jump from five years ago.
Jerome Miller, director of Neighborhood Services, said aging neighborhoods are harder to maintain, and that the poor economy may have turned people’s attention and money away from exterior maintenance to more important matters such as food and medicine. Inspectors find that complaints come in from all over town. No neighborhood is exempt from the storage buildings constructed without permits, the grass that has grown too high, the junker in the front yard or broken-down fencing. But Miller said some of the older and poorer parts of town have bigger challenges than newer and wealthier neighborhoods. “There are different needs in different neighborhoods,” Miller said, adding that many newer areas of the city are governed by homeowners associations, which are even stricter than the city’s rules.
And a tough economy does not help. “When your choice is repainting your house or buying your medicine, the house might just have to wait.” But generally, the calls follow efforts by the department to let people know about so-called code violations and what they can do about them. “Current policy is that we work from a complaint-based system,” Miller said. “We get the information into the system and take care of the cases.” Residents need to take the lead when an entire area shows signs of deterioration. When that happens, he said, the city can respond with various resources, including police. [Note: To report blight in your neighborhood, call 602-262-7844, send an e-mail, or complete an online form.]
[Source: Michael Clancy, Arizona Republic] — A new downtown Phoenix zoning district would make it easier for artists and other small business owners to live and work in the same building, free of several city-imposed restrictions governing parking and other activities. The Arts, Culture, and Small Business Overlay has been in the works for two years, and comes to a vote before the Phoenix Planning Commission Wednesday night. It is expected to win approval and move on to the City Council next week. Planners hope the new overlay will stimulate a thriving arts district near downtown, while minimizing issues that have proven problematic.
The boundaries of the proposed overlay include three areas that artists have colonized over the past several years, including Roosevelt Street between 13th Street and Grand Avenue, Grand Avenue from Van Buren to Interstate 10, and the warehouse district south of downtown. The overlay would not change the zoning of any parcels, but it would broaden the number of activities that could be permitted under the zoning. At first, the changes would focus on the Roosevelt Row area between Third and Seventh Streets, and Grand Avenue between Van Buren and Interstate 10.